|Some Kind of Wonderful (1987)
Starring: Eric Stoltz, Lea Thompson, Mary Stuart Masterson, Craig Sheffer, John Ashton, Elias Koteas, Molly Hagan, Maddie Corman, Chynna Phillips
Director: Howard Deutch
Of all John Hughes’ work in the teenage comedy genre during the 1980s, the film that falls between the cracks more often than not is “Some Kind of Wonderful.” So dismissed is the film that, within the biography in Hughes’ Wikipedia entry, the film isn’t even mentioned.
In a sense, you can see why it’s fallen into relative obscurity; there’s no Molly Ringwald, there’s no Anthony Michael Hall…in fact, there really isn’t anyone in the cast who’s generally considered to be part of “The Brat Pack,” so it stands apart via that aspect. Plus, it’s a pretty blatant thematic retread of “Pretty in Pink,” except that, this time, instead of a poor girl being pursued by a rich guy while having a guy she’s known since childhood long for her, it’s a poor guy going after a rich girl while having a girl he’s known since childhood long for him.
Keith (Eric Stoltz) plays the poor guy in question, though, unlike Molly Ringwald’s character in “Pretty in Pink,” his lack of popularity in high school has less to do with a lack of money and more to do with not conforming to the social standards of his peers. “I like art, I work in a gas station, my best friend’s a tomboy,” he says at one point. “These things don’t fly too well in the American high school.” Every bit of money he’s earned at that gas station is sitting in a bank account, earmarked – not by Keith, but by his father (John Ashton) – for college tuition. Keith’s eyes are less on a collegiate future, however, and more on Miss Amanda Jones (Lea Thompson), who single-handedly proved that you didn’t have to be country to pull off wearing cowboy boots with denim skirts. (Just an aside, while watching this DVD, my wife announced, “You know, I used to wear boots with skirts all the time after I saw this movie.” I was totally unsurprised; my wife is in her mid-30’s and unabashedly part of the John Hughes Generation.) Of course, Amanda has a boyfriend (Craig Sheffer) who’s an asshole; he’s no James Spader, but he’s damned close. Meawhile, Keith is predictably blind to the fact that the aforementioned tomboy best friend, a drummer girl known as Watts (which makes at least two blatant Rolling Stones references, if you’re counting), is utterly in love with him.
If you’ve never seen the film, let us not spoil it for you here…but it is said that Hughes made this film in response to the fact that the studio wouldn’t let him end “Pretty in Pink” the way he wanted to; while that might well explain why it’s pretty much the exact same movie, it doesn’t excuse it. Still, there’s plenty of that great, snappy John Hughes dialogue that sounds so good coming out of the mouths of teenagers…and though the above characters get most of it, many of the best comedic moments come courtesy of Elias Koteas as tough guy Duncan. A personal favorite line comes when he and his buddies take over the soiree that occurs toward the film’s end: “We're gonna bring this party up to a nice respectable level. Don't worry, we're not gonna hurt anyone. We're not even gonna touch 'em. We're just gonna make 'em cry a little, just by lookin' at 'em.” Also, while the soundtrack can’t touch that of “Pretty in Pink,” it must be praised for introducing the world to Flesh for Lulu’s “I Go Crazy” and Lick the Tins’ cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love.”
Don’t ever fall for claims that “Some Kind of Wonderful” is an underrated John Hughes film. It’s not. It’s exactly what it’s always been held up to be: a pale imitation of “Pretty in Pink.” But that doesn’t mean it’s awful…and it certainly doesn’t mean it’s not worth watching every once in awhile.
Continuing Paramount’s trend of decking out the John Hughes reissues with nice goodies, we get an audio commentary from director Howard Deutch and star Lea Thompson…who, it turns out, ended up getting married! (And, apparently, living happily ever after; the commentary ends with Thompson cheerily saying, “Good job, honey! I’m so proud of you!”) As on his “Pretty in Pink” commentary, Deutch drifts into silence on several occasions, presumably because he’s gotten caught up in watching the movie, and Thompson drifts right along with him; when they’re actually chatting, though, it’s a light but enjoyable listen. The new documentaries – “The Making of ‘Some Kind of Wonderful,’” “Meet the Cast,” and “The Music” – are, with their new interviews of the majority of the film’s principals, up to the high standards set by the previous reissues. Craig Sheffer is the only major player who’s MIA…though, once again, there’s no sign of John Hughes. Our theory as to why Hughes doesn't contribute anything to these DVDs is that he's become a Howard Hughes-styled recluse who lives alone in his house, spending his days and nights watching and re-watching his old movies, convinced that he'll never write another script that will match up to the legacy he created for himself in the '80s. Also, he will only respond to you if you call him Ozymandias. (Writer’s note: I’d like to apologize for this incredibly pretentious joke, but, hey, it made me laugh.)